Written (ca 1964) and Submitted by Chester P. Bailey
The Austin-Cox Post, American Legion recently held a dinner and program on the 100th Anniversary of the capture of the Mansfield Civil War Company at Plymouth, N. C. Believing in the purpose of the Legion as stated in their Preamble, they invited the community to commemorate with them these historic incidents.
The women of the Legion Auxiliary served a steak dinner, after which they joined with the assembled group in the program. Sixteenth District Chaplain, Fred A. Jupenlaz gave the invocation. Post Commander, Chester Bailey was Master of Ceremonies. Dr. John Baynes, Legionnaire and professor of music at Mansfield State College, led group singing of Civil War songs. He outlines briefly, their history as each was lustily sung by the assembled crowd. "Aura Lee", "Dixie", "Battle Hymn of the Republic", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", "Tenting Tonight", "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" and the "Battle Cry of Freedom" were included. Auxiliary member, Mrs. Orville Dickerson was accompanist.
Post Adjutant, Orville Dickerson, gave a background of history of the Civil War Company and displayed the framed field of the original GAR flag that hangs in Freedom Hall. Part of his remarks follow.
Mansfield Post 48, G.A.R. was among the first formed in the state just ten years after the close of the Civil War in 1875. It had over 200 members on its rolls at one time. It met in the Allen block over Strait’s Hardware. Members purchased a chair with their name and rank on the back. Some of these are still in the possession of some of their families.
A G.A.R. personal war sketchbook was presented and much of it compiled by Miss Byrissa Butts to the post in memory of her father Lorin Butts, who had two sons in the service.
The first commander was A. M. Pitts. Their engagements were many and included Chickahoming, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Fair Oaks (here they suffered heavily), Harrison Landing, Yorktown, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill (many wounded), Blackwater, Va., Kingston, Whitehall, Goldboro, New Bern, Little Washington, N. C., and Plymouth, N.C.
Others serving as Post Commanders were O. D. Goodenough, H. H. Lamb,
H. C. Bailey, M. L. Clark, A. J. Brown, O. T. Haight, H. B. Shaw, Dr. Benjamin
Moody, M. B. Goodall, W. B. Hall and W. H. Colony. Charter members were:
A. M. Pitts, O. D. Goodenough, F. M. Shaw, P. V. Clark, F. M. Spencer,
M. D. Bailey, H. H. Lamb, M. A. Cass, A. J. Brown, E. S. Keen, M. L. Clark,
Henry Gaylord, John Kelly, H. B. Shaw, W. H. Matt and J. S. Palmer. Part
of the flag is in the possession of the American Legion.
|1907 Civil War Veterans march to Hope (Prospect Cemetery), Main St., Mansfield PA.|
Mrs. C. Morris Thompson, Auxiliary member, wearing the 1861 wedding gown of her great-grandmother, read from the original minutes of the "Ladies Aid Society of the Soldiers of the Civil War". The minutes listed the great amounts of supplies, which the ladies collected for the soldiers and for hospitals. It also told of their dinner for the soldiers when they were assembled and ready to leave for Harrisburg. The ladies also collected money and bought a flag for the company of "Mansfield Mountaineers", which was buried at Plymouth, N. C. when the company was captured.
Approximately 100 men left the community of Mansfield (less than ten years after it became a borough) in Sept. 1861. Many of them never returned, some came back wounded or broken in health, and of course, some came back to be leaders of the community for many years, it was brought out in the program. The Mansfield Civil War Company was organized by Joseph S. Hoard. He had come to Mansfield in 1844. He was elected captain and the company became Co. B of the 101st Penna. Volunteer Infantry. When the Regiment was organized he was elected Major and later promoted to Lt. Col. He was acting Colonel at the battle of Fair Oaks. He was reported killed but was apparently only wounded. Failing in health, he was released from duty and returned to Tarrytown, N.Y. and finally died in Florida at the age of 64.
Lt. Victor A. Elliott of Mansfield played an important part in guiding the "Mountaineers" as did Melvin L. Clark, 1st Sgt. When they left Mansfield. Sgt. Clark had a remarkable war record having missed only four days from duty in the entire war. He was wounded and was in a hospital for four days. He apparently had no furloughs during the entire time it was reported in the program. He was promoted to Col. and was the Col. Clark who was in command of the Company when it returned to Mansfield.
Commander Bailey further reported that in 1864 General Grant was pressing Lee in the Wilderness campaign and Burnside was preparing to make Plymouth, N. C. a base for an army of 30,000 assigned to cut Lee’s supply lines at Weldon. President Jeff Davis placed General R. F. Hoke in charge of military operations in North Carolina with a force of 40,000.
The Union troops had occupied Plymouth on February 7, 1862, with very little opposition. This followed the fall of Roanoke Island. The Federal troops were complacent until badly shaken by an attack of Southern troops under John C. Lam and they hurried to fortify Plymouth, so well that they held it for two more years.
The Union troops were well entrenched at strategic Plymouth. Heavy-armed Union flotillas patrolled the waterways. Attempts by George Peckett and James Johnson Pettigrew to retake the area for the confederacy had been repulsed. General Robert E. Lee, fighting off the preliminary cavalry attacks on Richmond and bracing for the big push by Ulysses S. Grant, wanted to divert the blue coats by counter attacking at Plymouth.
North Carolina Troopers under the astute and daring R. F. Hoke were to strike by land. An ironclad to be built on the Plymouth River would join the assault on Plymouth.
The confederates quickly geared for action. John Porter, chief construction officer of the confederate Navy and the man who had designed the famous ironclad Virginia, which was built from the sunken hull of the Merrimac, assigned 19 year old Gilbert Elliot the job of building the ironclad.
The makeshift factory clattered day and night. It was located in a cornfield at Halifax, N. C. On April 18, 1864, the ironplated vessel, 150 feet long with slope-walled gun housing on the deck and an ax-shaped ram in front, was ready for action.
At midnight the ironclad which was christened "Albemarle" and commanded by James W. Cooke, at hightide, eased around and over obstructions, pilings, sunken hulls, a row of submerged torpedoes and heavy chains placed by the Union defenders of Plymouth.
Two maneuverable Union side-wheelers, the Southfield and the Miami, poured on the coal and steamed toward the Albemarle. Their objective was to entangle the Albemarle in the net of spars and chains that linked the two Union ships together. Meeting them at full speed, the Albemarle swerved suddenly at the last moment and sliced the Southfield nearly in to with its knife-edged ram. The Miami turned to avenge its sunken partner. The big howitzer on the Miami hurled a shell with a ten-second fuse. The shell bounced back from the iron plates of the Albemarle then went to work on the waterfront at Plymouth. Hoke’s forces meanwhile, stormed the land fortifications.
A three-day battle followed. Hoke routed the Federal Garrison and took 4,000 prisoners on April 21, and voluminous supplies including 600 mules. Among the troops surrendering was the 101st Penna. Vol. Infantry. Company B was the Tioga Mountaineers. All were captured except a few who were on leave or on temporary duty elsewhere.
The Plymouth Garrison was under General Wessell.
Jefferson Davis was so elated over this victory that he gave Hoke a battlefield promotion to major general